Specificity of experience-dependent pitch representation in the brainstem.

Center for Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Neuroreport (Impact Factor: 1.64). 11/2006; 17(15):1601-5. DOI: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000236865.31705.3a
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Crosslanguage comparisons of brainstem-evoked potentials have revealed experience-dependent plasticity in pitch representation for curvilinear f0 contours representative of Mandarin tones. To assess the tolerance limits of this experience-dependent selectivity, we evaluated cross-linguistically (Chinese, English) the pitch strength and tracking accuracy of linear rising and falling f0 ramps representative of Mandarin tones 2 and 4. No crosslanguage differences in pitch strength or accuracy were observed for either tone, indicating that stimuli with linear rising/falling ramps elicit homogeneous pitch representations at the level of the brainstem regardless of language experience. We conclude that pitch extraction at the brainstem level is critically dependent on specific dimensions of pitch contours that native speakers have been exposed to in natural speech contexts.

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